As an international organization working in multiple countries around the globe, ZOE needs your help to confront the evil of human trafficking. Because human trafficking and slavery happen every day and in every country, we need as many people as possible working together to see it end!
· The power of your prayers is an amazing thing. Please consider praying for our ZOE Child Rescue Team, our ZOE parents, the rescued children, missionaries, and staff in every country.
· Please share what ZOE is doing with people that we cannot reach – your friends, family, work colleagues, sports team, mothers’ group, church, school, and neighborhood.
· ZOE also needs people to fundraise, sponsor a child, and provide the finances for “special projects” in each country.
· Consider giving a donation to a ZOE volunteer missionary whose “salary” is primarily based on the donations of those who feel led to support ZOE. For other ways to get involved click here or contact us.
Prior to moving overseas in 2010 to work cross-culturally, I had only ever ‘missed’ being with my family on Christmas Day once. On December 24th, 2003 my husband and I were traveling through Rome and spent a wonderful (freezing cold) Christmas Eve at St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. We woke up in Florence on Christmas Day and then went on to Nice in France. It was our first experience of Christmas in winter.
Growing up in Australia, December is summer time. It’s our big school break and Christmas Day is usually hot! Many people attend or watch on television Christmas Carol events in the lead up to Christmas Day. Typically on the 25th, my extended family would have a hot roast for lunch and then enjoy either BBQ meats or cold meats like ham off the bone, seafood and salads for dinner. Christmas crackers would be found at each person’s table place. After cracking them open with the person sitting next to you, we would pull out a colored paper crown to wear during dinner, a small toy, and a joke on a small strip of paper. Jokes would be shared across the table and after eating, everyone would gather around the decorated Christmas tree to exchange gifts.
In Thailand with just over 1% Christians, Christmas is very different. For the majority of Thai people, who are Buddhists, rather than Christmas, the coming of the New Year is celebrated. You will see some Christmas decorations in the malls here, and occasionally even hear Christmas carols playing but Christmas Day is a regular day (not a holiday) and if it falls on a weekday, you’ll still see public schools in full swing.
When you think about Christmas, what images come to your mind? Depending on where you live in the world, your experiences of Christmas will vary according to your country’s religious beliefs, culture, traditions and climate.
ZOE works in America, Thailand, Australia, Japan and Mexico. All very different nations! So we wanted to find out what Christmas is like for people living in those countries. This month on social media, you’ll see our staff from all around the world sharing their personal memories and experiences in the country they grew up in, or live in now. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to hear whether or not there’s any truth to the notion that Japanese people enjoy KFC on Christmas Day!
Every year, as the school year draws to an end, many students are breathing a sigh of relief, eager to escape the daily routine of going to school. Because on top of the academic pressure, cram schools, and after-school activities, some students are now facing a new enemy…“revenge porn.”
“Revenge pornography” is when explicit photos or images of a person are distributed (mostly online) without his/her consent with the intention to embarrass or cause emotional harm.
According to the National Police Agency in Japan
According to the National Police Agency in Japan, the number of cases continue to rise with as many as 1,559 “revenge porn” cases affecting children reported in 2019. More than 80% of those cases were related to junior high and high school students, but sadly even preschool children fell victim in more than 50 cases.
Sometimes children become victims by participating in sexting, the sending and receiving of explicit content such as nude selfies, which are then later used by previous romantic partners or friends to embarrass or bully them. In a recent case reported by local media, a group of junior high school boys secretly filmed girls in the locker room and sold the photos and videos via online chat.
Fear and Anxiety
Victims find themselves in a constant state of fear and anxiety, often leading to severe depression, or worse. Their vulnerability now exposed, they become easy targets for child sex traffickers who will use deception or manipulation to exploit them further.
ZOE Japan is blessed to have a strong relationship with another NPO in Japan that supports victims of “revenge pornography” and removes the harmful images from the web. Through this relationship, we are able to observe, learn, and participate in the counseling process to ensure that survivors receive the necessary legal support to clear their names and start the restoration journey. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to expand our professional network and gain experience in supporting survivors.
Please pray for spiritual protection, strength, and wisdom for our team members, and for opportunities to share the love of Jesus with survivors and staff.
On August 19, 2020, Netflix began promoting a French film called Cuties,which was set for worldwide release on September 9, 2020. The film (originally called Mignonnes) by French Senegalese director Maïmouna Doucouré and Netflix’s marketing campaign brought about worldwide criticism, petitions to remove the film from Netflix, and campaigns to #cancelNetflix due the public’s concerns that the film promotes the sexualization and commercial sexual exploitation of children and appeals to the appetites of pedophiles.
On September 23, 2020, a grand jury indicted Netflix for the “promotion of lewd visual material depicting a child.”
Although Doucouré has stated that her intention was “to show that our children should have the time to be children, and we as adults should protect their innocence and keep them innocent as long as possible,” in the making and promoting of the film, young girls were exploited in the process and continue to be exploited every time someone views the film. The lead actress is just 11 years old.
Imagery in films like these normalize the sexualization of children and are legal forms of online child sexual exploitation. Individuals and companies are profiting from the exploitation of children in this film. Exploiters can easily take images and videos from this film and upload them to sites profiting from commercialized sexual abuse imagery of children. In addition, with children watching films like these, they are being exposed to and influenced by sexualized behaviors and media representations of children.
Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)
As a society, we need to take a stand and draw the line against media imagery that fuels the demand for the commercial sexual exploitation of children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), their CyberTipline has received over 65 million reports of the online exploitation of children, 312 million images and videos have been reviewed, and over 18,900 victims have been identified by law enforcement. NCMEC further reports that survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) “speak to the long-lasting damage and impact of their images and videos being circulated on the internet.
The lack of control of both the files’ existence and circulation leaves the survivors struggling in their recovery.” In 2018, “teen” was one of the Top 10 search terms from the most consumed pornographic website. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that “[s]ome child traffickers adjusted to the reluctance of buyers to meet in-person to engage in commercial sex. Some traffickers are now offering options for subscription-based services in which buyers pay to access online images and videos of the child.”
The sexual abuse imagery of children exists because there is a demand for it. Let us fight to protect the dignity of children, especially in media, imagery, and the internet.
On October 29th and November 30th, ZOE Japan will have the unique opportunity as JNATIP members to meet directly with various government officials to discuss policy reforms and various anti-trafficking initiatives.
There are several topics on the agenda to be discussed with different government departments; and all of them are very important for the purpose of protecting children and people in vulnerable positions.Â
One of the main agenda items is related to simulated and virtual child sexual abuse material (child pornography). In Japan, possession of child sexual abuse materialÂ became illegal in 2014, but it excludes simulated or virtual child sexual abuse materialÂ such as anime, manga, child sex dolls, and virtual reality. Those in favor of continued freedom to produce these kinds of materials argue for freedom of expression in the arts, and that no real children are being harmed in the production of these materials. There are also arguments that it could prevent pedophiles from committing crimes against children in real life.Â
However, according to the book Pedophilia Disorder – It Is Not Love written by Akiyoshi Saito, a psychiatric social worker and the Director of a rehabilitation clinic for people with various forms of addiction, the majority of patients who have been charged with a crime and being treated for pedophilia at his clinic had the regular habit of watching or looking at child sexual abuse materialÂ multiple times a day. This indicates that the contents were not keeping them from committing a crime, but the material might be increasing their desire to abuse a real child instead of providing an outlet.
The real concern is not whether the child is real or not, but instead the intention of the material to sexualize children, potentially leading to more abusers and victims in our communities. We need to make every effort to eliminate content that could place children at risk.Â
We are hopeful for an open discussion with the government representatives that will lead to Â tangible action points to modify the law to protect children from being sexualized or objectified in any form.
The second topic that we will address is the â€œage of sexual consent.â€ During the Meiji era (1880s), the age of consent was set at 13 years old, and remains valid until this day. This has been a hindering issue when identifying human trafficking cases and punishing child traffickers. When a 13-year-old child has the legal authority to consent to sexual activities, it creates a huge challenge to provide evidence of exploitation, with abusers simply claiming that that child consented and receiving very light penalties if convicted.Â Â
For example, if an abuser connects with a minor through a social media platform and they develop a “romantic relationship,” often, it turns into a sexually abusive relationship which can also be filmed, photographed, and uploaded online. In addition, there are cases in which accommodation and food are provided to runaway children, and sexual activity is required in return. Such cases clearly fit the definition of human trafficking, but if the victim fails to legally prove that it was clearly nonconsensual by use of means of threat or violence, this often leads to very light sentences for perpetrators (if convicted) and a high rate of repeat offenses.
This age of consent not only fails to deter crime and exploitation but also provides legal advantages to traffickers and abusers.
In the upcoming meetings, we will have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of raising the age of consent to 16 to protect young people from sexual crimes at a fundamental level and to punish child sex offenders.
As we are taking these bold steps to be a voice for the voiceless children of Japan, please pray that we will experience Godâ€™s favor at the meetings, and that the decisions made will reflect His perfect will for Japan!
A New Aquarium: Delivering Health and Wellbeing Benefits
I remember that my grandmother used to love to sit and stare at the aquarium my older brother kept at home. As a teenager, I never really understood how she could just sit there and watch the fish swim for hours. Have you ever done this? Just sit and watch fish swim? Or have you ever been to a large public aquarium and spent way too long in the darkened room with that huge tank holding all the different species of fish and other sea creatures?Â
It is captivating and actually very relaxing and calming.
Recently, we installed a fish tank at our Child Rescue Center in Thailand. When the girls heard about it they were so excited. In fact, one of them asked if she could purchase her own pet fish to raise in the aquarium. With much joy and anticipation she and one of our ZOE moms bought a fish each to raise in the tank together.Â
It is a simple aquarium with a good number of fish but it has been so LIFE-giving and restorative for our youth. Not only are they able to sit and enjoy watching the fish, they are also taking ownership and caring for the fish and working together to clean the tank regularly. Itâ€™s become a fun family activity that they do together.
Fun fact: Did you know that there are studies that show how watching fish swim in an aquarium can actually help reduce stress and anxiety and help with relaxation?
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, â€œSay to Aaron, Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.â€™â€Â â€“ Exodus 8:5
Frogs, frogs, frogs! The folks in Egypt were fed up with frogs so Pharaoh entreated Moses to get rid of them. It might have been a different story had it been set in Thailand. Thai people love to be fed up with frogs. In fact, fat frogs are a delicacy to Thai taste buds!
As part of ZOE’s food self-sustainability program, we have recently started growing frogs. Our staff, students, and children love frogs and we can expand our menu without increasing our overall costs.
The frogs are raised in a concrete basin measuring 3×3 meters and 2 meters deep. A portion of the basin is covered with shallow water while the top is covered with a protective mesh to keep birds and other predators out. ZOE also raises catfish and tilapia on our fish farm, but whereas the fish take up to a year or more from fry to frying pan, frogs leap from tadpole to table in 3-4 months. Thus, we can harvest at least 3 crops of frogs every year.
Each army of frogs comprises several hundred animals. We buy them when they are just past the tadpole stage for about six cents apiece and feed them with pelletized frog food. When fully grown, the frogs are the length of a smartphone and as thick as a man’s fist.
The chefs in ZOE’s kitchen love frogs, too, because they are easy to cook and can be prepared in a variety of tantalizing and tasty ways. Some like them best boiled, braised, baked, or barbecued. They are great grilled or roasted. Fried, fricasseed, or flamed frogs are flavorful favorites. And any spread will surely be more scrumptious with steamed, sautéed, seared, smoked, simmered, stewed, or stir-fried frog! Serve with rice or noodles and oil! “a feast fit for a king (if not for a Pharaoh)!
With our first frog yield due in a hop, skip, and a jump, we expect our ZOE family will soon be jumping for joy themselves!
Age-related long sightedness is considered a normal part of getting old. As someone in their 40s, who is realizing that small text is increasingly getting harder to focus on, I am well aware that by the age of 45 many people need reading glasses.
Thankfully though, needing reading glasses does not impact the way that I am learning to see myself. It takes focusing on the truth to see the inner me – the way God sees me – and this type of sight has no age limit or restriction. But it does take some practice!
Recently I had the opportunity to share about this topic with the teens at the ZOE Learning Center. Through many different activities, from looking through different lenses and objects, to examining different perspectives, we learned that there was often more than just one way to look at something.
Although everyone’s life story is different, there are many things that we all have in common.
At different points in our lives, we all face setbacks.
When we face setbacks we have choices about how we respond.
We all have a choice to see ourselves through our own eyes, or through God’s eyes.
We all have a choice about whether we listen to lies or truth about who we are.
By recognizing that there is often a mismatch in the way we see ourselves compared to how God sees us, we can choose which lens to look through. I don’t know about you, but for me, the way He sees me is a much nicer view! When God looks at me He sees a beautiful creation, no mistake, chosen, wanted, loved, forgiven. And I must admit sometimes (more often than I care to admit) that’s not the way I see myself.
There are many life lessons that I learn through nature. And the aloe vera plant is one example of something that has taught me a lesson this year. Aloe vera is one of those things that I have growing in various parts of my garden. It sprouts up easily and seems to thrive almost anywhere. To be honest, I used to just see it more like a weed than anything special until I learned and understood how amazing it really is From being good for your skin, your hair, pimples, itchy bites, sunburn, even in smoothies. it’s really quite incredible.
Sometimes we might feel like a weed, pushed aside, unwanted, useless, out of place in a garden of more beautiful plants, but God doesn’t see us like that. He sees us as amazing. And the aloe vera plant reminds me to see myself, and others, in the same way He does!
I just participated in and completed one of the hardest physical challenges I have ever encountered. ZOEâ€™s Road of Justice was an 8-day 630+ mile cycling ride from Brunswick, Maine to New Holland, Pennsylvania. It was filled with beautiful views of the eastern United States countryside, fellowship with passionate people, and some of the toughest climbs I have encountered to date on my bicycle.
One of the things that kept me going was focusing on the purpose for why we were riding. Each morning before we set out on our ride for the day, our leader Brad Ortenzi, would give us something to focus on. Sometimes it was a specific child at ZOE and the challenges they were facing. Other days it was the Child Rescue team or the children who have not yet been rescued. Instead of crying about a hill we had to climb, we were encouraged to pray for our daily focus. That really put everything into perspective for me!
Close to the end of a tough Day 7 I was thinking that I only had to survive one more day and then I would be done. It gave me hope! This immediately made me think of the children who are trying to survive one more day in the dark and brutal world of child trafficking. They donâ€™t know when or IF their pain will ever end. They have no hope! And this is why we ride; to bring rescue, hope, healing, and restoration to these children. If our riding can bring awareness and get more people involved in the fight or raise the much needed funds to rescue one more child then this 8-day challenge was well worth the effort!
Fighting child trafficking is hard, sometimes messy, and often feels like an uphill battle. But with all of us pulling together we CAN end child trafficking for one more child, and then another, and then anotherâ€¦â€¦!
For some of the children at ZOE, dancing is one of their favorite ways to pass the time. And dance has many proven benefits: It can help you to express your emotions, relieve stress, increase physical fitness, improve confidence and self-esteem, and encourage creativity and imagination.
One of the positive outcomes of the recent COVID lockdown was a newfound collaboration with Prisma Dance. This dance studio in Hawaii has a mission statement that shares ZOE’s heart: To fulfill the Great Commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5) (Matt 22:37) and to fulfill the Great Commission – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you(Matthew 28:19-20a). Their vision is Christ-centered dance training focused on glorifying and worshiping God, and sharing Christ with the world through dance.
What a perfect partnership for ZOE!
Nicole Lam, Prisma’s founder and director, volunteered to create a special dance just for our ZOE girls. She made detailed videos to teach the girls and the girls practiced diligently on Saturday mornings to perfect their art. The dance was choreographed to a song called, Note to God. This song is an emotional prayer, a letter to God to mend the world of all the bitterness and hate. It talks about finding love, granting faith and giving hope, even when it seems like all hope is gone.
Our 7-member dance team shared their powerful performance with the whole ZOE family at a recent worship night. It was not only a chance to express their emotions but the girls also received encouragement from their family as they worshiped God in a unique way. Thank you Jesus for our new friendship with Nicole and Prisma Dance. May God bless their ministry abundantly!
ZOE has been blessed with many generous donors over the years. Whether through individuals, churches, businesses, or foundations, we have seen Godâ€™s hand of grace moving in our work.Â One of our greatest joys is to share Godâ€™s abundant overflow with others who are doing His work to feed the hungry and care for the poor.Â
ZOE has been working with two of our most generous donors â€“ the Childrenâ€™s Hunger Fund and USANA â€“ to ensure that much-needed help gets delivered directly to those who need it most.
Thanks to Childrenâ€™s Hunger Fund, ZOE has established the â€œMercy Network,â€ 73 local churches that have been providing food and other necessities to families in their neighborhoods for years throughout Thailand. Recipients donâ€™t have to be church members or even Christians:Â God is not a respecter of persons and neither is hunger!
One of the Mercy Network churches is Acts of Grace Church in the heart of Chiang Maiâ€™s slum area. When USANA leaders visited ZOE, we took them to see the work that Acts of Grace was doing with the children who lived in the slum area. They were so moved that they wanted to get involved in that work. USANA committed to feeding 100 kids and to rent a soccer field every Saturday so that the children could have a safe place to play and nutritious meals. In addition, the program has been effective as an outreach to the families of the kids who come.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the church wasnâ€™t able to rent the field but they continued to cook and deliver meals door-to-door in the slums every Saturday. Now, both the meal and soccer field programs are back in full swing!
We are so thankful for partners like USANA and Childrenâ€™s Hunger Fund. They are true examples of acts of grace!
– Written by Ron Boyer
Mercy Network is a regional network of like-minded churches committed to gospel-centered mercy ministry. ZOE partners with local churches who have a passion to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ. ZOE provides food boxes to the local churches for them to use as a means of building relationships within their respective communities.